No matter what stage of life you’re in, budgeting is something that is essential but sometimes daunting. If you ask me, I put off my budgeting for far too long. However, now that I budget regularly it has been such a positive addition to my life and has reduced my stress immensely. It is extremely helpful to have tools that you can utilize to help you track your finances and spending, especially if you are saving for something in particular or trying to pay off debt.
Different tools will work for different people, and it is important to find one that is easy to use which you know will last over time and not just for a season. Once budgeting becomes a regular part of your life, you’ll never look back! Here we will compile some of the best budgeting tools that can be utilized by anyone, no matter how experienced or inexperienced they are when it comes to budgeting.
Tool One: Budgeting Applications
Most of us spend a lot of time on our phone anyway, so why not download an app that can help us budget and keep our finances straight. There are many different budget apps on the market; it is just a matter of which is best for you. My personal favorite app for budgeting is HomeBudget. However Mint and Clarity are also top favorites in the app store. I’ll explain a little bit about each and why they might work for you!
HomeBudget works for my husband and I as we link our bank accounts to the app as well as to both of our accounts. We are able to create a shared budget and then simply add in each expense into categories we’ve already created such as “gas” or “groceries.” There is a free version of this app, but we pay for the upgraded one to get all of the features. My personal favorite aspect is that you can roll over budget money to the following month, which helps me aspire to save for big purchases. It’s fun to watch your money grow as you start to spend on things you budget for rather than just impulse buys.
Mint refers to itself as the “free money manager and financial tracker app.” The makers behind TurboTax are responsible for this app, so you know that it will be effective and user-friendly. Mint allows you to track your bills and add in where you spent money and how much you are able to save. Mint is also linked to your bank accounts and allows you to keep track of their balances. Lastly, it allows you to see your net worth, which is a unique feature to help you see where you are with your finances.
Clarity follows a similar model to many budget apps in the sense that it allows you to track and manage your expenses and begin to save. The app also has a very useful feature that allows you to see your monthly subscriptions you may have forgotten about (hello, Netflix!) and cancel them if you realize you are not using them. There may be some subscriptions you’ve forgotten about, and Clarity helps you see this. You can also view your credit score on the app and find credit card offers that are based on your spending habits tracked in the app.
Tool Two: Excel Sheets
For those that are computer savvy, this is a free way to track your finances and budget from your computer. There are many templates available online (I personally looked at Pinterest and found tons for FREE!) that you can download and modify to fit your spending habits. Depending on where you are in life, your budget will be different from year to year. Excel will allow you to change these sections and dollar amounts as well as create charts to track your spending habits over time.
Tool Three: Paper Budget Planners
Some people prefer to keep their budget planning “old-school” with the old pen and paper method. There are so many various printable templates online which you can print out and keep it on the fridge, in your planner, or create a Budget Binder with all your bills compiled in one tidy place. Paper budget planners can also be used if you have kids that have an allowance and want to teach them to budget in an easy and effective way.
Tool Four: Bullet Journaling
As you probably know if you are a regular reader of Jihi Elephant, bullet journaling is the organization method of choice! Check out the free resources in the Resource Library and get some ideas on how to incorporate finances and budgeting into your bullet journal. A “bills” page will allow you to keep track of bills you need to pay, and you can easily check them off as it is completed. Talk about easy – this method allows you to have your budgeting all in one place with your other organization of to-do lists, goals, and anything else you include in your “bujo”!
Remember, it’s never too late to start where you are. Happy budgeting!
This post was written in collaboration with Caroline Pitarque Johnson of Line Writing Co. Collaborative writing means that while I have contributed to this post and edited its content and formatting, I am not its original author. Want to guest post for Jihi Elephant? Learn more here.